Vida Vegan Con III – Day One Eats & Speaks

June 18th, 2015 - posted under: Furthermore » Inspiration

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With Matt Ruscigno, MPH RD (TrueLoveHealth) and Ginny Messina, RD (The Vegan RD). We were nicknamed the “Science Track” for our 3 complimentary science-based presentations. ♥

I’ve been reading a lot of Vida Vegan Con recaps, and a fair number of them start out with the same sentiment: “I’ve been struggling to put into words what I experienced at VVC . . . “

And I’d say that’s a fair assessment. I think that most of us who were there are feeling a sense of inadequacy in our ability to convey to our friends and readers just exactly how it felt, and what we learned, and how the whole thing has carried us forward into our work and lives.

And maybe that’s partly what’s kept me hesitant about blogging since I’ve been back. It was such a special experience; profound and fleeting.

And I really do want to share as much of it as I can with you, because there was so much wisdom and knowledge and inspiration and fire. So here goes! My best attempt to thoroughly recap VVCIII, Day 1:

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Not exciting.

Breakfast on the first morning of the con was pretty amazing – a Breakfast Taco and Artisan Toast buffet. But my tummy was a wreck with nerves, because I was slated to give my solo presentation later in the day, and I was SCARED. So for me, breakfast was chia pudding and fresh fruit, with a few potatoes and avo on the side. Delicious in its own right! But breakfast tacos it ain’t.

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The first talk I attended was Matt’s “Science Is Awesome! Why We Don’t Need To Exaggerate Health Claims About Veganism”.

Matt is an awesome speaker, just a pleasure to watch. I was going to write a big summary of his talk, but the incredibly on-top-of-it MeShell and Sews Before Bros already beat me to it! Both of their write-ups are super detailed and worth the read, but the gist of the presentation was that science is awesome in the literal sense of the word: vast and complex and ultimately, un-knowable. So it behooves as as vegan writers and activists, not to lean *too* heavily on science in our outreach. Because science can be manipulated, and science can be contradictory, and science can even work against us (see: successful weight loss and improved health markers after the “Twinkie Diet”) in making our case. Science is awesome, but compassion is the real core of veganism.

Also in the first time slot were Gene Bauer of Farm Sanctuary, speaking on “The Paths To A Mindful Life”, and my friend Jackie from Vegan Yack Attack, giving a fantastically informative talk on “Blogging Etiquette and Social Media Essentials”.

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Heidi from Heidi Ho Organics and Dan from Chicago Vegan Foods.

The next talk I intended to attend was from Susan Voisin of Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. She was giving a seminar on “Post-Processing for Food Photography, or How to Fix Almost Anything with Software,” which I was really looking forward to. Unfortunately I was too anxious to concentrate, so I had to duck out 10 minutes in. But luckily, the awesomely artistic Wok on the Wild Side put together this “sketched-note recap” of the talk. Amazing, right? So creative!

The other two talks during the second session were “Demo’ing the Demo” by Fran Costigan, and a panel on “Feminism and Veganism” featuring Julia DeNoto, Nicole J. Georges, Jojo Huxster, and Anika Lehde.

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With Ayinde and Jackie just minutes before my talk. I WAS NERVOUS. Haha.

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My talk was called “Facing Failing Health As A Vegan,” and I think the missing subtitle was “– And What Our Community Should Do About It”. I spoke about my own personal experience with illness, but mostly, I was focused on what I perceive to be a very serious problem with the way that sick vegans are regarded by the collective vegan community.

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One of the slides from my talk.

So I offered my suggestions on how I hope that we might change that, and how I think we, as a community, should be addressing the very real issue of vegans who are sick.

This is all tied into other work that I do – to the Ex-Vegan Phenomenon and also to my philosophy towards food, health, and holistic wellness. It’s all so connected.

At the end, I opened the floor up for discussion, because that’s what I really wanted – to have a conversation. And there were vegans who stood up and tearfully, gratefully, shared their own experiences with illness. Thank you. And there were questions and concerns and ideas and understanding. It was a valuable dialogue and I feel so, so thankful to have been able to make the space for it.

I wish I had a picture from my actual talk, but I didn’t get one. But suffice to say, I had a blast (like I always do, my stupid nerves are so silly!) and I can’t wait to do it again. ♥

Also, I shared my time slot with some pretty amazing women: my friend Joni of Just The Food presented on “So, You Want To Write A Cookbook” (she has a wee bit of experience, with TEN under her belt), my friend Whitney spoke about how to “Make Your Blog Your Full-Time Career”, and my friend Amey hosted a zine-making workshop. So much goodness!

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Right after my talk we all adjourned to the ballroom for lunch, and by then I was famished! There was a fabulous buffet of deliciousness, including the quinoa, tempeh patties, salad, and buffalo cauliflower pictured above. YES PLEASE.

Meal times at Vida Vegan Con are always exciting, and I continued the tradition of sitting at a different table, with different people, for every meal of the conference.

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Right after lunch we jumped into more talks, and I was so excited to attend the fantastic “Preventing Ex-Vegans – Strategies To Maximize Longterm Success” by one of my friends and idols, Ginny Messina, RD. Ginny has this certain way in which she talks about food and health which I just find so freaking compelling. I adore her no-nonsense approach, and this talk was truly a pleasure to see (and obviously, one of my greatest areas of interest!). She covered so much, but the overall gist was that “The only guaranteed promise of a vegan diet is that it removes yourself from the exploitation of animals. It won’t make you look young forever, it wont necessarily make you lose weight or live forever, but you will remove yourself from the exploitation of animals.” So true.

If you’re interested in learning more, MeShell did an AMAZING recap of the talk, here.

Afterwards, Matt and Ginny and I (Science Track!) had a chance to chat, and hopefully there will be some collaboration in the future . . .

There were two other presentations that shared that time slot: a panel called “Let’s Talk Marketing,” featuring Colleen Holland, Jill Pyle, Whitney Lauritson, and Joshua May, and a Food Styling Workshop from Hannah Kaminsky.

Also, there was one more time slot that evening, and although I didn’t attend any of the sessions, I wanted to include them because I have no doubt that they were awesome. Michelle Lee spoke on “Branding for Bloggers & Beyond,” Nicole J. Georges spoke about “Touring Your Book or Project,” and Christy Morgan led a group discussion called “Can We All Just Get Along? Finding Common Ground in Different Forms of Activism.”

There was, obviously, so much great stuff going on! If you want to learn/hear more, there’s a really wonderful discussion of many of these talks (including mine!), and how they all relate to one another, and what we can take away from them, on the absolutely awesome Vegan Warrior Princess podcast.

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By the end of the day we were all inspired and exhausted . . . and hungry! So my trailer-mates and I, along with Mr Sexy Vegan, headed over to Bouldin Creek Café (my favorite Austin restaurant!) for some dinner grub.

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I shared this insane “Tarzan” salad with Jackie, along with some tacos (duh).

Do I even need to say that this meal was amazing?

And afterwards we all decided that we needed some ice cream for reals, so we hit up Sweet Ritual for some amazing vegan treats!

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There were so many choices, but I finally settled on peanut butter cup ice cream with a real strawberry sauce on top. The perfect end to a truly perfect day.

Coming soon, the second (and final!) day of VVCIII . . .

♥ ♥ ♥

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